Plenty to ponder over for harness racing officials

FULL HOUSE: It was standing room only last Sunday morning when a meeting to discuss harness racing at both local and statewide level was held in the club bar at the Greenwald Paceway. Picture: Submitted

David Gilbert

FOLLOWERS of the local harness racing industry proved they are a hardy lot last weekend.

A cold northerly wind and a temperature under 10 degrees did not stop more than 40 people packing the club bar at the Greenwald Paceway on Sunday morning.

Participants from as far afield as Naracoorte, Portland and Millicent proved the importance of the meeting in regards to the future of harness racing, both locally and at state level.

Three Harness Racing SA officials were originally expected to attend but it was only CEO Dean Elliot who arrived to address the gathering and face the music.

For a person who has only been in the role for a short period of time, Elliot did an extremely good job of outlining the current state of play and then answering questions from the floor.

He headed back to Adelaide with plenty to ponder over and fully aware of the problems that exist here in the South East in regards to harness racing.

Elliot pointed out, as the racing industry would agree with, that more government support is required as “they are a critical part of our funding model.”

“We are so far behind the other states and any changes that will be made in regards to government funding will happen to all three racing codes”, Elliot said.

“There is a reasonable chance of that occurring, hopefully sooner than later to enable us to put money into prize money.”

As for the local scene, trainer Andy Gray summed up what most locals are thinking by saying “if the Victorian horses don’t come, we don’t race – simple as that.”

With Mount Gambier being told to have stand alone meetings in the new season, that means at least 36 horses are required for six races to be run.

“That makes it very hard when there are only about 25 local horses,” Elliot pointed out.

It was put forward that one way to get the Victorian horses here is to work in with Harness Racing Victoria and endeavour to run heats of some series here and the finals run at a western Victorian track.

Another idea suggested was to try and run some races at Mount Gambier under the Vicbred bonus scheme.

It was agreed consultation with the Victorian authorities is needed to prevent Mount Gambier meetings clashing with meetings just over the border.

“Ideally, we want Sky Channel 1 coverage for Mount Gambier and Port Pirie meetings and we believe that there should be three clear days between any Mount Gambier and western Victorian meeting,” Elliot said.

It is envisaged the local season will start possibly in early November and perhaps the majority of meetings may be Sunday twilight fixtures to help visiting trainers.

One Mount Gambier trainer not in attendance on Sunday – and with good reason – was Steve Fennell.

He headed to the Stawell meeting with some runners and did not come home empty handed.

Following two recent seconds in Victoria, Jilliby Rippa ($2.60) got up in the last stride at start number seven to win the maiden pace.

Trainer Greg Howard is having some fun since acquiring the eight-year-old pacer Samara Fury earlier this year.

At Globe Derby Park on Monday, Samara Fury ($6.50) won his second race in the past six weeks by coming from midfield to win the NR 42 pace by 3.4 meters with Samantha Pascoe in the sulky.

CEO DEPARTING THE SCENE

It was a bit of a shock to learn earlier this week Racing SA Chief Executive Officer Nick Redin has resigned and will be decamping the scene at the end of November.

While there were accolades for his efforts during his time as the top man, there are many in the gallops industry who will be quite happy to see Redin walk into the sunset.

The rapid demise of the two-day Easter Oakbank carnival in the past few years from being one of the state’s star attractions to barely a flickering light has not helped our image nationally and does not sit well with many.

Then there was the attempt by Racing SA last year to close down the Halidon track as a racing venue, a decision which was eventually overturned due to wiser heads prevailing and public backlash.

PRESENTATION DAY NEARS

WINNERS of the various Limestone Coast Thoroughbred Racing premierships and other awards will be recognized at the annual presentation day on Sunday , August 14 from noon.

This year the venue is the member’s function room at the Naracoorte racecourse where around 80 people are expected to attend.

Locally born and currently Melbourne based Jacob Opperman is making the effort to attend to receive the apprentice’s title, while Penola-born jockey Caitlin Jones will be the guest speaker.

Darryl Dodson, a long time servant of South East racing, will accept his first ever trainer’s premiership and it will also be a first for Mount Gambier’s Trevor White, winner of the restricted trainer’s title.

It is hoped Adelaide jockey Kayla Crowther will be on hand to accept the leading rider trophy but she may be committed to riding at Port Augusta the same day.

It is the one day of the year when the local racing industry can get together to relax and it is envisaged all five racing clubs will be represented.

Tickets are still available and bookings can be made with Sally Matheson (0407522458).

COLERAINE COMES ALIVE

FOR the vast majority of the year the Coleraine racecourse lies dormant but it is a different story at the end of winter.

Coleraine is no longer a training venue and the club is allocated only two race meetings a year unless other meetings are transferred there due to the winter weather.

Last Tuesday was one such instance when the Warrnambool meeting was transferred to Coleraine due to track renovations at the “Bool”.

It is back to Coleraine on Sunday, August 14, for the Great Western steeplechase meeting followed by Coleraine cup day on AFL Grand Final eve (Friday, September 23).

When the dates for the 2022-23 season were originally released, Casterton was due to race this Sunday however it was moved some time ago to Tuesday, October 18.

SEASON OPENER HERE ON SUNDAY

MOUNT Gambier will open the batting for the new season of racing with a seven-race card out at Glenburnie this Sunday.

It is just as well that Casterton are not racing in opposition this Sunday as nominations for Mount Gambier are somewhat on the light side with 71 entries for the meeting

As with the previous meeting, everything for the public will again be upstairs in the member’s lounge.

“There will be plenty of tables and seating, and all facilities such as dining, drinking and betting in the warmth upstairs,” Mount Gambier Racing Club general manager Brett Watson said.

The running rail will be out seven meters to the 800 meters and six meters for the remainder.

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